Story: Sports and leisure

Page 1. Home and city

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In 2002 the average New Zealand adult male worked just over 40 hours a week in paid employment, and women worked just over 36.5 hours. By 2013 most workers received at least four weeks’ paid leave and 11 statutory holidays each year. Despite the burdens of domestic duties, most New Zealanders have considerable time for leisure interests.

Home-based leisure

Since many New Zealanders still aspire to the suburban family life, much time is spent around the home. Playing games with children, watching television or DVDs, and listening to music are hugely important interests.

Globally, New Zealand has one of the highest reading achievement rates, and reading is a top leisure activity. In 2000, 44% of New Zealand adults had purchased a book in a sample four-week period, and 39% had visited a public library.

Mag mad

Kiwis are the second highest consumers (after the UK) of print magazines. 58% say they buy regularly, and in 1998 they bought at the rate of 27 per person. In 2004 the most read magazine was the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.

Computer and video games are popular, and in 2006, two-thirds of households had access to the internet at home.

New Zealanders have a proud tradition of do-it-yourself home maintenance, and since their major investment is in their house, much energy is spent on improvements – from interior decorating to structural alterations.

Gardening is one of the main physical leisure activities for women and men. In 2000, 60% of adults had gardened during the year. There is a keen interest in landscaping, design and planting, and native shrubs and trees are popular. Many people grow their own herbs and vegetables. In spring and summer there are garden tours, shows and festivals around the country.

Out of the home

New Zealanders have paid money to be entertained for over a century (with travelling theatres and, since the 1920s, the spread of movies). Since the 1980s there has been a big increase in urban-based leisure activities. This is partly because of a legislative change in 1980 which allowed some Saturday shopping; hours have been progressively extended since then. In addition, as the number of families with both partners in full-time work increased, the weekend became the only time when they were free to shop and cruise the city. Shopping has become a major weekend leisure activity. Young people like to meet at shopping malls or bars and clubs, go dancing or to the movies, ‘hang out’ in their cars, or visit friends.

Eating out

Eating out is a popular way to relax or socialise. Commercial food outlets range from multinational chains such as McDonald’s (the first outlet opened in Porirua in June 1976) to a huge array of ethnic restaurants, many of a South Asian variety. In addition there was a major expansion from the 1990s in coffee bars, both in cities and provincial towns. Wellington’s image changed from the grey civil-servant town to the swinging ‘coffee capital’ – it now has more cafés and restaurants per capita than New York.

Ready-made meals

In 2001 the average household was spending $28.80 a week on restaurant meals and ready-to-eat foods – the biggest slice of the weekly food budget. A survey found that 83% of Kiwis (aged 10 plus) had eaten fast food in the previous month. Fish and chips was the most popular fast food (61%), followed by McDonald’s with 43%.


Liquor laws have changed considerably over time. For half a century after the First World War, the six o’clock closing of pubs restricted bar life to frantic swilling of beer, almost solely by men, in the hour after work. When this was abolished in 1967, pubs changed their ambience to become more comfortable and interesting; women became more frequent customers and the nature of drinks changed. Wine consumption, which had been 8.6 litres per head in 1975, rose to 19.6 litres in 2003. In 1999 the minimum age for drinking was lowered to 18. This has been accompanied by an increase in liquor consumption by young people. Musical gigs and dancing on licensed premises have also become part of youth culture.

City culture

As the number of educated people rose, city culture grew, with more New Zealanders enjoying galleries, museums, live shows and foreign movies. The first film festival was held in Auckland in 1968 and has been followed by festivals for music, writers and the arts throughout the country. The inner city has come alive with cultural offerings.

In an average month, almost one-fifth of adult New Zealanders visit a museum or exhibition. Just over one-quarter go to the movies. One in five listen to the classical music radio station and nearly half to the non-commercial Radio New Zealand National network programme.

How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'Sports and leisure - Home and city', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 13 July 2024)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Sep 2015